Study Shows Fitbit Could Detect Flu


In the future, your Fitbit may know you have the flu before you do.

Wearable technology could even tip off your doctor to oncoming infections or whether you were at risk of developing a chronic illness, and could help you prevent it before it took hold.

The predictions come from a two-year Stanford University study but they’re also backed by the arrival of the first app to use Fitbit devices to guess whether you’re coming down with something.

Unsurprisingly, the wearable technology company plans to embrace the trend.

The Stanford University study tasked 43 people with wearing a heart monitor to gather vital information such as heart rate, oxygen level, and skin temperature.

Author and University genetics chairman Dr. Michael Snyder says the study sought to test whether smartwatches and wearable technology with biosensors could be used to predict ailments as well as counting steps.

“We want to tell when people are healthy and also catch illnesses at their earliest stages,” he said.

And the study backed up their predictions. One participant was found to be ill even though he was “clinically asymptomatic,” and another, the study’s author, discovered he had Lyme disease shortly after its onset despite the lack of a telltale rash.

“I had elevated heart rate and decreased oxygen at the start of my vacation and knew something was not quite right,” said Dr. Snyder.

Subsequent blood tests confirmed the diagnosis.

The study also identified participants with signs of insulin resistance, which could precede diabetes.

But wearable technology is already starting to play a role in healthcare. A new app developed for use with Fitbit devices promised to track vital signs and predict when the wearer was getting falling ill.

Datapult founder Tony Peticca said the company developed the Achu app to use “the data that we are actively feeding into our health trackers and wearables daily” to predict whether the user is getting sick or is just tired.

The app uses Fitbit data, like heart rate and sleep log information, and asks users to log whether they have symptoms, like a headache or fever, to recognise health patterns.

The app then delivers users with a “health risk” score and, over time, should get better at predicting whether illnesses.

Fitbit chief business officer Woody Scal said he was yet to use Achu specifically but letting patients share wearable device data with their doctors could lead to “very serious innovation in healthcare”.

“This data you get from a wearable device can create more insights about your health and fitness,” he said.

But Scal said the devices could still have a bigger role to play in preventing chronic illnesses from taking hold as many could be prevented or improved with diet, exercise, and more sleep.

“The future is not just measuring things but really about something like a Fitbit giving you guidance to make changes and teach you to make healthier decisions,” he said.